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The Day Before

We Thought It Would Always Be Like This

By Patrick W. Gavin
Sunday, September 5, 2004; Page B01

On a Tuesday morning in September three years ago, four planes separated nearly 3,000 people from their loved ones. They also separated life into "before" and "after." The "after" is a dangerous, delicate work in progress. But do you remember before?

Sept. 10, 2001. Cloudless skies welcome the sun to the East Coast at 6:32 a.m. This Monday looks to be a beautiful late summer day. Tuesday, however, might see some storms and clouds, as a hurricane is approaching. The worst of Hurricane Erin is out at sea and will remain there, but rough weather is still expected along the New Jersey coast later today or early tomorrow.

New York City. (Mario Cabrera -- AP)

Not that people are all that focused on the weather.

The gossip around the water coolers this morning revolves around the latest about California congressman Gary Condit and missing intern Chandra Levy, the U.S. Open final match on Saturday between sisters Venus and Serena Williams, Michael Jordan's possible return -- again -- to the NBA, tomorrow's release of Bob Dylan's 43rd album, "Love and Theft," and the summertime paranoia about shark attacks, "killer mold" and dangerous roller coaster rides.

There's some buzz around today's television premiere of "The Other Half," a talk show hosted by former Partridge family son Danny Bonaduce, never-aging TV host Dick Clark and two other minor male celebrities that seeks to be the male counterpart to the popular, all-female "The View." Kelly Ripa is appearing on "The Late Show With David Letterman" tonight, and Jay Leno has Keanu Reeves on "The Tonight Show."

Singer Mandy Moore's video "Crushed" remains atop MTV's TRL Top 10 Countdown. Regis Philbin and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" top the Nielsen ratings, and "The Musketeer," yet another Hollywood take on the Alexandre Dumas novel, leads the box office.

The morning's headlines cover a variety of topics. The Washington Post and the New York Times both lead with congressional wrangling over a tight federal budget. The Wall Street Journal fronts comments by Vice President Cheney suggesting that the administration is seriously considering a capital gains tax cut and an increase in the minimum wage.

USA Today goes high with a National Academy of Sciences report suggesting that President Bush's recent decision to allow some stem cell research won't make a serious dent in treating diseases. The New York Daily News features an article on the booming retail industry in the 75 below-ground stores at the World Trade Center.

It's the day before the city's primary election. But more New Yorkers are probably talking about Michael Jackson's concert at Madison Square Garden tonight than about the contest for mayor. At a campaign stop on Coney Island, City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Peter Vallone screams "Nine-one-one -- September 11! . . . It may not be an emergency for you, but it's an emergency for me!"

Outgoing Mayor Rudy Giuliani attends a sermon by Father Mychal Judge, who is addressing current and former firefighters, as well as Fire Department Chief Pete Ganci, at a Bronx firehouse. "You have no idea, when you get on that rig," the priest says at the firehouse, "no matter how big the call, no matter how small, you have no idea what God's calling you to do. . . . Good days, bad days. Up days, down days. Sad days, happy days -- but never a boring day on this job."

President Bush's approval rating stands at 51 percent. He spends the first part of his day meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, discussing a potential free-trade agreement between the two countries. Later he flies down to Florida to promote his education bill, pursued throughout the day by questions about the slumping U.S. economy. Unemployment is 4.9 percent and rising. The surplus is disappearing. More than 1 million people have become unemployed since January.

"This has been an awful week for the stock markets," Sam Donaldson declared yesterday morning on ABC's "This Week." He was being modest: It has been an awful year. The manufacturing and technology industries have been especially hard hit by the economic downturn, and corporate profits have dwindled. The Dow Jones is down 11 percent this year, the Nasdaq down 32 percent.

"Is the worst over?" Donaldson asked. "I mean, what's ahead?"

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has called the struggling economy "the biggest problem I think the country is facing." President Bush hopes he can assuage congressional concerns tomorrow when he hosts the congressional barbecue on the White House South Lawn.

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